Abbott and Costello
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ABBOTT AND COSTELLOAbbott and Costello were an American comedy duo composed of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, whose work on radio and in film and television made them the most popular comedy team of the 1940s and early 1950s. Their patter routine Who's on First? is one of the best-known comedy routines of all time, and set the framework for many of their best-known comedy bits.
Bud Abbott (1897-1974) was a veteran burlesque entertainer from a show business family. He started in burlesque box offices as a treasurer around 1918, and eventually managed and produced touring burlesque companies before becoming a performer. He worked as a straight man with his wife Betty, then with veteran burlesque comedians such as Harry Steppe and Harry Evanson.
Lou Costello (1906-1959) became a burlesque comic in 1928 after failing to break into movie acting and working as a stunt double and film extra. He appears briefly in the 1927 Laurel and Hardy silent two-reeler, The Battle of the Century, seated at ringside during Stan Laurel's ill-fated boxing match. (As a teenager, Costello had been an amateur boxer in his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey.) Costello's first appearance in burlesque was in St. Joseph, Missouri. He joined the Mutual Burlesque wheel in 1929, and Minsky's in 1932.
While they crossed paths a few times, the two comedians first worked together in 1935 at the Eltinge Burlesque Theater on 42nd Street in New York City. This performance came about when Costello's regular partner became ill.
Other performers in the show, including Abbott's wife Betty, encouraged a permanent pairing. The duo built an act by refining and reworking numerous burlesque sketches with Abbott as the devious straight man and Costello as the dimwitted comic.
Radio and Broadway
The team's first known radio appearance was on The Kate Smith Hour on February 3, 1938. At first, the similarities between their voices made it difficult for radio listeners (as opposed to stage audiences) to tell them apart during their rapid-fire repartee. As a result, Costello affected a high-pitched, childish voice. Who's on First? was first performed for a national radio audience the following month. They performed on the program as regulars for two years, while also landing roles in a Broadway revue, The Streets of Paris, in 1939.
In 1940, Universal Studios signed them for a musical, One Night in the Tropics. Cast in supporting roles, they stole the show with several classic routines, including the Who's on First? routine. Universal signed them to a two-picture contract. Their second film, Buck Privates (1941), directed by Arthur Lubin and co-starring The Andrews Sisters, was a massive hit, earning $4 million at the box office and launching Abbott and Costello as stars.
After working as Fred Allen's summer replacement in 1940, Abbott and Costello joined Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on The Chase and Sanborn Hour in 1941. Two of their films (Buck Privates and Hold That Ghost) were adapted for Lux Radio Theatre that year. They launched their own weekly show October 8, 1942, sponsored by Camel cigarettes.
The Abbott and Costello Show mixed comedy with musical interludes (by vocalists such as Connie Haines, Ashley Eustis, the Delta Rhythm Boys, Skinnay Ennis, Marilyn Maxwell, and the Les Baxter Singers). Regulars and semi-regulars on the show included Artie Auerbach ("Mr. Kitzel"), Elvia Allman, Iris Adrian, Mel Blanc, Wally Brown, Sharon Douglas, Verna Felton, Sidney Fields, Frank Nelson, Martha Wentworth, and Benay Venuta. Ken Niles was the show's longtime announcer, doubling as an exasperated foil to Costello, who routinely insulted his on-air wife played by Elvia Allman). Niles was succeeded by Michael Roy, with announcing chores also handled over the years by Frank Bingman and Jim Doyle. The show went through several orchestras, including those of Ennis, Charles Hoff, Matty Matlock, Matty Malneck, Jack Meakin, Will Osborne, Fred Rich, Leith Stevens, and Peter van Steeden. The show's writers included Howard Harris, Hal Fimberg, Parke Levy and Eddie Maxwell. Guest stars included Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, The Andrews Sisters, and Lucille Ball.
In 1947 the show moved to ABC (the former NBC Blue Network). During their time on ABC the duo also hosted a 30-minute children's radio program (The Abbott and Costello Children's Show), on Saturday mornings. The program featured child vocalist Anna Mae Slaughter and child announcer Johnny McGovern.
It was after this the duo moved on to television.
OTRR Release Information:
Series Name: Abbott and Costello
Release Status: OTRR Certified Accurate
Release Date: September 14, 2017
Release Version: Version 1
Number of CDs: 5
From the Old Time Radio Researchers Group. See "Notes" Section below for more information on the OTRR.
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- 2017-10-22 11:01:06
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